The space inside your loft is essentially wasted space. The ideal use for this space is to convert it into extra living space with a loft conversion. However, many people just need some extra storage space. Converting the loft into a storage space is a low cost job that only requires basic DIY skills and tools. You do not need any planning permission if you are only intending to use the space for light storage. Read on to find out how to convert your loft into a storage space.
The normal way to access a loft space is via a loft hatch. This is basically a panel in the ceiling that can either be lifted up and pushed to one side, or will have a catch and be mounted on hinges. Loft hatches do vary in size, in some very old houses they can be quite small with just enough room for an adult to squeeze through. Most houses have loft hatches of a reasonable size.
The safest and most convenient way to get into the loft is via a permanently installed loft ladder. Balancing on chairs is dangerous and having to go out to the shed or garage to get step ladders is inconvenient. Loft ladders are cheap to buy and easy to install. A good quality ladder will last a lifetime, in our view this makes them a very worthwhile investment. There are many types of loft ladder available, the most common being the aluminium extending ladders with wooden loft ladders being a more visually appealing option.
Loft Boarding and Loading
If you are going to be using your loft space for storage you will need a safe platform on which to stand and store items. Just about every DIY store will stock tongue and groove boards specially designed for boarding in a loft space. These boards can be bought quite cheaply from major retailers such as Wickes and B&Q.
The ceiling joists in your loft are only designed to support the weight of the ceiling below and light loads. Placing excessive loads in the loft can cause ceilings to sag and place pressure on door frames causing the doors to stick. If you need to store heavy items then a full or part loft conversion may be a better option.
Most loft boards (or loft panels) found in DIY stores come in packs of 3 boards that will cover just over one square metre. The individual boards are around 4' by 2', you can use larger boards but remember that you will need to lift them through the loft hatch! The smaller boards do work out slightly more expensive, but will be much easier to fit in the back of your car and handle in the loft space. You will most likely need to trim the boards to ensure that the ends of the boards are always on a joist. A decent circular saw will make light work of cutting the boards, you can use a hand saw but if you find you need to trim an inch off each board then it will soon get tiring. Don't use nails to fix the boards as the hammering can loosen plaster from the ceilings below. Screws are much better and will enable you to easily lift the boards up at a later date if needed.
We recommend fixing 2-3 inch battens to the top of the ceiling joists. This will provide some additional strength by spreading the load and also allows extra space for insulation, or prevents existing insulation from being squashed. The battens will also make it easier to go over any wires or pipes, do not be tempted to cut notches into the ceiling joists as this will weaken them, cut notches in the battens instead.
Most people only board the central area of the loft. As you get closer to the eves the headroom becomes too limited for it to be practical.
Storage - Get Organised
So now you have a nice shiny new loft ladder and loft boarding in place you can use the space for storage. Now is the time to get organised, plastic storage crates with lids will protect the contents from dust and can be stacked one on top of the other. Write contents labels for each crate to make it easier to find things in the future.
Find new homes for items that are no longer needed. Ebay and FreeCycle are great places to find new homes for unwanted items. Loft spaces can get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so it best not to store anything that might be damaged by extremes of hot and cold.
By far the best solution is to have a mains powered light with a switch as near to the loft hatch as possible. Any electrical work needs to be completed by a qualified electrician, they should not charge much for such a simple job. Torches and battery powered lights are a quick and easy option, some of the new LED torches now offer reasonable light output and long battery life.
Now would be a good time to add or top up the loft insulation. Loft insulation is cheap and easy to install and can significantly reduce your heating bills.
It is important that you stay safe, here are a few safety tips for you to consider. This is by no means a comprehensive safety guide and you will have to take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
Mind where you put your feet! Only stand on the joists, the ceiling will NOT be able to support your weight! If you have placed temporary boards down for working ensure they are strong enough and properly supported at both ends.
Mind your head! Headroom can be limited in some areas of the loft, watch out for low beams and sharp objects like old nails.
Electrics! Watch out for electrical cables, especially when screwing down the loft boards.
Protective clothing! Lofts tend to be dusty environments and you will need protection from the fibres of loft insulation. A good quality dust mask and gloves are essential. If the loft is exceptionally dusty you may also want to buy some disposable overalls. Its a good idea to keep your arms covered as well.